What We Know About the Deadly Protest Shooting in Portland

Police arrive to treat a man who was shot near a pro-Trump rally on Saturday night in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

A man was shot and killed on Saturday night in Portland, Oregon, amid violent clashes between a caravan of Trump supporters and anti-racist protesters in the city. It is not entirely clear how the shooting may have been related to the protests, but the victim was reportedly a member of a far-right group in the Portland area.

Below is what we know so far about this developing story, updated as new information becomes available.

The shooting and police investigation

The shooting happened amid periodically violent clashes between anti-racist protesters and Trump supporters, some armed, in a caravan of hundreds of vehicles taking part in a rolling rally outside the city, many of which later drove through downtown. Per a Saturday night statement from Portland Police:

On Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 8:46p.m., Portland Police officers heard sounds of gunfire from the area of Southeast 3rd Avenue and Southwest Alder Street. They responded and located a victim with a gunshot wound to the chest. Medical responded and determined that the victim was deceased.

OPB reported Sunday that the man was apparently a member of a far-right group that was present at the rally:

Images from the scene show a man wearing a hat featuring the logo of Patriot Prayer, a group that has regularly attended, hosted and engaged in violence at Portland protests through the years. The man was also wearing a “Thin Blue Line” patch on his shorts, indicating support for the police.

Portland Police did not release information about any potential suspects, but said that they were investigating the shooting as a homicide. “This violence is completely unacceptable, and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible,” Portland police chief Chuck Lovell said Sunday.

According to the New York Times, “A video that purports to be of the shooting, taken from the far side of the street, showed a small group of people in the road outside what appears to be a parking garage. Gunfire erupts, and a man collapses in the street.”

Another video recorded audio but not video of the shooting, though it captured the immediate aftermath when protester medics tried to administer aid to the victim before police quickly arrived and took over the scene.

The Daily Beast also spoke to some witnesses of the shooting:

Kevin Escobar, a counter-protester who witnessed the shooting, told the Daily Beast there was “a commotion in front of a car” before two shots rang out. “I saw a body on the ground, just the legs. It looked like they weren’t moving,” he said. Another man who didn’t want to be named said he was driving south when, “I heard two shots and saw a person fall. Their body fell right there … I heard two shots, and boom.”

The shooter has reportedly been killed

On September 3, five days after the shooting, a 48-year-old man suspected in the homicide was reportedly shot and killed by police in Lacey, Washington, outside of Seattle, when officers tried to arrest him. According to law enforcement officials who spoke with the New York Times, a federal fugitive task force killed Michael Forest Reinoehl when they attempted to detain him. Earlier in the day, Vice News published an interview in which Reinoehl, who said he was a support of antifa in June, claimed the killing in Portland was an act of self-defense, as he believed that he and a friend were about to get stabbed. “I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color, but I wasn’t going to do that.”

The victim

The victim has not yet been officially named, but according to the Oregonian, he has been identified by fellow members of the Patriot Prayer group as Jay Bishop, though that is apparently an alias he went by. A purportedly official GoFundMe benefitting his family, shared by the Patriot Prayer leader Joey Bishop on social media, says his real name was Aaron “Jay” Danielson. Little else was known about Danielson as of Sunday night, other than his membership in Patriot Prayer, a far-right Portland area group that has been involved in numerous violent clashes over the years.

On Sunday, President Trump retweeted a tweet revealing the victim’s name as Jay Bishop and alleging he was “murdered in Portland by ANTIFA” — which has not be confirmed by any stretch by any authorities. “Rest In Peace Jay!” Trump wrote.

The Trump rally and protests

Two events converged on Saturday night in Portland: the 94th consecutive day of protests in the city against racism and police brutality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, and a rolling Trump rally/counter-protest comprised of a caravan of hundreds of vehicles filled with thousands of Trump supporters, some of whom were armed, which began outside the city but eventually moved downtown — leading to numerous chaotic, sometimes dangerous confrontations between the groups.

The Trump rally participants — reportedly energized by the president’s acceptance speech at the RNC on Thursday, in which he condemned the unrest in “Democrat-run Portland” — gathered in nearby Clackamas in the late afternoon. According to OPB, “A post pinned to the Facebook event page, which drew some 2,500 attendees, discouraged people from openly carrying firearms and instead encouraged concealed carry,” though some of the Trump supporters did apparently open-carry at the event.

OPB reports that the Trump 2020 Cruise Rally assembled at the Clackamas Town Center mall, where “hordes of trucks flying Trump, Gadsden, American and Thin Blue Line flags had lined the town center parking lot by 4 p.m.”:

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office vehicles blocked intersections around the mall to allow the parade of vehicles to pass through, but officials told OPB they were not providing an escort for the group. Multiple Oregon state troopers were positioned along Highway 224, the pro-Trump caravan’s primary route to Portland.

A map of the intended route shared and spread across social media kept the caravan on highways and out of downtown. In a highly predictable turn of events, many cars rerouted into downtown just before 7 p.m. Confrontations grew more heated from there.

The Daily Beast adds that “sporadic fights broke out between Trump supporters and anti-racist demonstrators outside the [mall], where at least 600 vehicles had gathered in the parking lot,” and that “members of the far-right Three Percenters were reportedly spotted in the crowd holding paintball guns as organizers delivered speeches to honor Trump, whom they described as ‘our great president.’” Another unconfirmed report indicated that some members of the far-right Proud Boys were also in attendance.

When trucks from the caravan attempted to drive through downtown Portland, there were efforts by protesters to halt the procession, including demonstrators standing in the middle of the street, and some stopping their own cars to block passage. (As has typically been the case with the Portland protests, the anti-racist demonstrators comprised multiple groups, including Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist, and other protesters.)

Another far-right extremist group participating in the Trump rally was pacific northwest-based Patriot Prayer, including the group’s leader, Joey Gibson.

There were also multiple reports, and videos, showing caravan members firing paintballs and bear (pepper) spray cans at anti-racist protesters standing on sidewalks or in the streets, some of whom threw eggs and other projectiles at the vehicles.

There were multiple sporadic clashes between caravan members and protesters, including fights between Trump supporters who got out of their vehicles to confront people on the street, and protesters confronting people standing in the backs of pickup trucks. Portland Police later said they had made ten arrests, but law enforcement reportedly made only limited attempts to try to keep the groups apart.

As the New York Times’ Mike Baker notes, Saturday’s violence marked the third consecutive weekend involving guns at protests in the city. In addition to the fatal shooting on Saturday night, gunfire was also reported on Friday night, and on August 15 — both incidents involved people firing guns from cars, though apparently only in the air, and no injuries were reported.

The response from Trump, Biden, and Oregon authorities

It did not take long for President Trump to comment on the shooting. Early Sunday morning, Trump sent off a number of inflammatory tweets and retweets related to the previous night’s events — mostly reiterating his previous comments on the unrest in Portland, and notably failing to condemn the violence.

In one tweet sharing a video of one of the violent clashes on Saturday night in Portland, he suggested the Trump rally was part of a “big backlash” against the violence in the city, again criticized Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, and called for bringing in the National Guard.

“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching an incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” Trump’s tweet said. “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”

He also referred to the rally caravan as a group of “GREAT PATRIOTS!” and had a lot more to say, too, as Vox’s Cameron Peters notes:

In a number of his tweets and retweets Sunday, Trump dismissed arguments that he is responsible for ending violence at protests, claiming instead that deadly incidents are the fault of Democratic mayors and governors. For example, the president amplified a tweet accusing Democrats of “being slow and hesitant to condemn violence and disorder,” and also one that accused Wheeler and the Portland police of having “blood on their hands.”

“Disgraceful Anarchists,” he wrote in reply to a video of Portland protesters. “We are watching them closely, but stupidly protected by the Radical Left Dems!”

Trump said nothing to discourage the violence.

In a tweet on Sunday night, the president retweeted a tribute to the victim which alleged, without evidence, that the victim was “murdered in Portland by ANTIFA,” adding the message, “Rest In Peace Jay!”

At a Sunday afternoon press conference addressing the shooting, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler called the incident a “tragedy” that “cannot be repeated.” Wheeler also implicated the president. “Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?” Wheeler said. “It’s you who have created the hate and the division.”

The embattled mayor, who publicly turned down Trump’s offer of federal law enforcement assistance on Friday, also asked the president to work with him to deescalate the violence. But as OPB notes, “Neither Wheeler nor Chief Chuck Lovell offered a specific plan for preventing Saturday’s shooting from setting off more violence, though they both acknowledged that possibility.”

Trump responded by mocking Wheeler while the press conference was still underway:

Meanwhile, Oregon governor Kate Brown also blamed the president on Sunday, alleging in a statement that Trump “has encouraged division and stoked violence,” particularly in recent months. She also said that “our hearts go out” to the family of the shooting victim in Portland, and that while “we do not yet know the full circumstances of this person’s death … we will find those who are responsible, and they will be held accountable.”

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who has echoed the president’s law-and-order comments throughout the unrest this summer, blamed local officials for encouraging an “environment of lawlessness and chaos.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on Sunday condemning the violence in Portland on all sides:

I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy. Today there is another family grieving in America, and Jill and I offer our deepest condolences.

Biden added that, “as a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash. It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight.” He then went on to attack Trump for “fanning the flames of hate and division”:

This post will be continuously updated throughout as more information becomes available.

What We Know About the Deadly Protest Shooting in Portland